UNC-FSU: The Good & Bad

Jawad Williams (AP Photo)

North Carolina basketball coach Matt Doherty said UNC's lopsided losses to Illinois and Kentucky helped his team improve and was a reason why the Tar Heels clobbered Florida State 69-48 Sunday night in Tallahassee.

That may be true, but Carolina's wins over Old Dominion, Kansas, and Stanford, in which UNC was unable to put those teams away after building comfortable leads, can also be added to the list of lesson's learned. On Sunday, they put the Seminoles away.

Here is a look at the good and bad of UNC's seventh win in nine games:

GOOD

Looked like old times – More than any other time since Doherty took over the program, this win resembled so many of Dean Smith's 879 victories. The Heels were decent in the first half, getting help from a reserve to keep pace. And took off in the second half, aided by a defense that caused numerous turnovers. Smith's philosophy was often to play the first half to get to the second half and then take off. Well, they did that.

For years, many UNC fans were confident in close games at the half because they had Smith in the locker room instructing the Tar Heels. Doherty certainly isn't Smith yet, but he sure played the role well on Sunday. His adjustments activated the difference.

Jawad Williams – Williams had a nice game knocking down a couple of Js and powering the ball to the hoop in the paint. He is able to get off shots when pummeled in the paint for a score, and sometimes the plus-one free throw. He also had five rebounds, two steals, and a blocked shot to go with his 16 points.

Raymond Felton – Felton was just 2-11 from the field, but he handed out 11 mostly-beautiful assists, grabbed six rebounds and had five steals. He had a great defensive game and grew a bit more into a leadership role.

Byron Sanders – Sanders gave the Heels a huge lift off the bench at precisely the right time. He scored six quick points in the first half during a period in which the Heels had been ineffective. He finished with eight points and three rebounds in eight minutes. This should do wonders for his confidence.

Melvin Scott – Scott dropped in eight points, snared three rebounds, and swiped two steals and had an assist in 18 minutes. But perhaps as important was the great job he did running the team when Felton was out of the game because of foul trouble and later a brief injury.

David Noel – Noel has exceptional physical gifts, and despite certain obvious weaknesses in his game, he remains an effective player for the Heels, especially defensively and in the open court. The put-back dunk was nice, but more encouraging was the 3 he nailed from the corner. He finished with five points, four rebounds and two assists in just nine minutes that included some awesome defense.

Defense – The Heels really played some D on Sunday. They disrupted FSU's offense mostly all night, and especially in the second half when the Seminoles scored only 18 points. On the night, UNC forced 22 turnovers – 14 compared to six assists by FSU ballhandlers Tim Pickett, Nate Johnson, and Todd Galloway. FSU shot just 38.2 percent (21-55) from the field, including a wretched 1-16 (Pickett was 1-10) from beyond the arc. Carolina didn't allow many good looks inside and limited Michael Joiner to just four field goal attempts. The traps worked extremely well, and should be a more effective weapon throughout the season.

Energy – Carolina was ready to play. The Heels came out with energy and played at a high level of intensity. In the second half they pulled an Emeril Lagassee by kicking it up a notch. UNC played with a skip in its step.

Matt Doherty – Whatever exactly Doherty said at halftime it worked big time. Carolina was sensational in the second half, and for the entire game graded out well because they listened to their coach. If there are any internal problems in Chapel Hill it sure wasn't apparent Sunday night.

Rebounding – The Heels finally dominated an opponent on the offensive glass. UNC outboarded the 'Noles 19-7 on the offensive end and 43-37 for the game. They limited FSU's four big men – Joiner, Trevor Harvey, Anthony Richardson, and Adam Waleskowski - to just 17 rebounds while Picket, a guard, had 11. The Heels did a better job boxing out, hence the numbers.

Nail in the coffin – The Tar Heels struggled to put away Old Dominion, Kansas and Stanford, going through ugly stretches in each of those games allowing each team to cut into a large margin. On Sunday, however, they didn't wilt at all. The Heels kept building the lead and then held it over the final eight minutes for the final 21-point margin.

No Stars, no problem – Despite UNC's star freshmen shooting just 9-39 from the field and combining for 24 points, Carolina still rolled. The bench was outstanding, and Williams and Jackie Manuel did enough offensively and defensively to notch the victory.

Bench, again – The bench was excellent in the second half for the second consecutive game. Held to six points in the first half, the bench finished with 21. In fact, they scored 12 of UNC's 15 points during a crucial stretch when the Tar Heels separated themselves from the Seminoles.

Seventh win – With the victory, UNC is now just one win away from equaling last year's total. As shocking as that seems, it is indeed true.

BAD

Sean May – May had trouble getting open inside at times, and when he did, he failed to convert easy opportunities. Usually possessing a soft touch, he rushed a lot of attempts around the basket and took one ill advised outside shot. May still managed 10 rebounds and did a solid job defensively. Poor nights will happen, so don't expect such a performance often.

Freshman trio shooting – Felton, May and Rashad McCants combined for 9-39 from the field. Everyone has poor shooting nights, but many of the misses were from within five feet. The positive is that none of the sensational trio let it affect their confidence - see the number of shot attempts.

Attendance – Okay, it was a Sunday night three days before Christmas, but FSU has been playing well so one would expect more than 7,102 fans to show up, especially with the legendary Tar Heels in town and a national TV audience watching. Hmmmm, do the folks in Tallahassee realize what UNC's program stands for? And furthermore, with the constant bad news flowing out of FSU's football program, wouldn't it make sense that the town would show the hoops team some love? Pretty sad folks!

UP NEXT

The Tar Heels convene in New York after Christmas for the Holiday Festival. UNC will face Iona in the opener on Friday at 6:30 p.m. and will play either Manhattan or St. John's on Saturday. Game times are 3 p.m. for the consolation game and 5 p.m. for the title game.


Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He hosts a late afternoon radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.

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